Sausage Sweet Potato Hash, Asian Style Green Beans, & Brown Rice

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sausage sweet potato hash

Well hello there!  Yes, it’s been awhile, I know.  I sort of slipped into a funk there about what this blog is about, and I’ll tell you why: Living by myself, keeping up with what I was buying, cooking, and eating was super simple.  I did all my own grocery shopping, cooked nearly every meal for myself, and always knew what was in my cupboards, freezer, and fridge.  And, sticking to my $6 a day budget really was a challenge.  There were some months there where I had $6 left in the last week of the month and had to invest it in greens, making brown-rice-black-bean-collard bowls for the rest of the month.  (Which, honestly, is not a bad way to go.  It’s actually one of my favorite weeknight meals!  Especially if you have some good hot sauce on hand.)

But, moving in with Jesse has been a whole different ballgame.  I still do almost all of the grocery shopping, kitchen organizing, and cooking, which I certainly can’t complain about.  If that’s the way our division of labor shakes out and I get to sit back and knit while he fixes an emergency leak in the upstairs shower, or cleans the gutters on Saturday morning, I’m a lucky girl.  But, it does complicate things for the purpose of this blog.  For instance:

  • Jesse is a fantabulous cook, but he goes about it waaaaay differently than I do.  He simply wakes up in the morning, decides he wants to eat beef stroganoff for dinner, and then goes to Fred Meyer on his way home and buys every single ingredient, including most of the spices and pantry items we already have.  I’m grateful to have a delicious meal waiting for me when I come home from work, so this is not the battle I pick, but while that’s still part of our shared grocery expenses, it’s certainly not the way I roll!
  • I can scrupulously save receipts from every purchase and catalog them at the end of the week, but asking that of Jesse is a losing battle, so my weekly tally of grocery spending never felt totally accurate, and that bugged me so much!
  • Jesse eats at home way less than I do.  Whether it’s picking up a sandwich from Subway for his work lunch, or Mexican takeout after a late night of bowling, or just the fact that he doesn’t eat breakfast OR leftovers, the fact of the matter is, our household consumption is pretty skewed.  I eat 3 different meals at home (or bring them with me wherever I’m going) most days out of the week, and while they’re inexpensive and made using simple ingredients, the fact of the matter is I’m consuming about 70 percent of our groceries these days, which makes it really hard to really figure out the math of whether we’re truly supporting two grown adults (one of whom can put down three burritos in one sitting…and it’s not me!) on six dollars a day.

So, while I certainly haven’t stopped cooking, shopping frugally, or getting creative with my leftovers, I did stop blogging about it for about eight months!  But, recent requests from certain friends and customers have convinced me to get back into it, realizing that maybe this blog will just have to revamp its purpose.

So, I probably won’t be taking snapshots of all my receipts, keeping a running total, or showing you the breakdown of what each ingredient costs.  But, I will keep taking pictures of meals that I’m proud of, and telling you how I made them!  And you’ll just have to trust that I’m still scouting out the best deals at the grocery store, buying for the future, and getting creative with what’s already taking up space in our freezer/pantry/fridge/cupboards.

This one was a wonderfully collaborative meal, totally by surprise, and was actually precipitated by an argument about Point #3 above.  Every once in awhile, when it comes time to reconcile the monthly bills (which includes all the groceries we put on our shared credit card), Jesse gets all grumpy-pants about it, huffing that he pays for half the groceries, even though he barely eats any of them.  Which, I believe, is really not my problem.  Whether or not you choose to partake, you have a healthy, home-cooked meal waiting for you every night, plenty of leftovers for us both to take to work, and I even make most of our dinners with you in mind (i.e. usually featuring meat and/or cheese, Wisco-style!)

Being able to to share fridge space, grocery costs, cooking, and mealtimes is supremely important to me — and a requirement for me even with a regular old roommate, let alone a life partner.  Even in college, I entered every roommate situation making it clear that I did not want to have the kind of fridge where we each have our own shelf, shop independently, and label our own milk with our names in Sharpie.  Being able to share in each other’s nourishment is one of the most loving things we can do together, and I have been adamant since day one that if we are going to split the mortgage, water bills, and 50-lb. bags of food for our pup, then we should be splitting groceries too, because they are (and should be) part of our life together.

For me, part of sharing groceries also welcomes open conversations about what we’re eating, what we’re spending, what we want to cook together — whether it’s a savory midweek crockpot meal or a gigantic smoked brisket for a party.  It means that if our grocery bill is too high one month, let’s talk about it and figure out why and decide ways together to pare it down.  It means that even though you may not ever eat any of the cottage cheese that I make my morning Israeli salads with, you also get that entire package of Oreos to yourself, or if you want to eat a frozen pizza for dinner one night, go for it!  I’ll split that with you too even if I’m not having any.

I came home from work that day armed with all these arguments in mind, ready to make my case, only to find Jesse had already worked all this out in his own head over the course of the day, and was agreeing with all my points before they even finished coming out of my mouth — the best kind of frustrating.

And, on that note, I dug some random veggies out of the drawer that I thought would complement each other — zucchini, onion, and sweet potato — and a package of chicken sausage out of the freezer where I like to keep random protein on hand just for occasions like this, pointed to the pile and said, “Okay, why don’t you make a hash out of that.”

This is one thing I love about cooking with Jesse: he is refreshingly compliant and capable.  Sometimes I’ll have a vision for dinner, and instead of trying to handle all the components I’ll pull up a recipe for one of my ideas, set up his tablet on the kitchen counter, and tell him to “make that.”  He’s really good at following directions.  The other side of this is that I can trust him to chop up whatever I put before him, add it to a skillet, and season it well by improvisation.  I honestly can’t even tell you what he put in this hash, but I do know he cooked the diced sweet potatoes first since he knew they’d take the longest, then added the onion and sausage, and cooked the sliced zucchini separately so it wouldn’t get too mushy.  Swoon.

In the meantime, I trimmed the ends off of a big bag of green beans I bought last week, heated up some peanut oil in the smaller skillet over medium heat, and tossed them in.  After they’d sauteed for about two minutes, I added some store-bought stir fry sauce — nothing fancy, just some Vietnamese-style bottle of something-or-other that’s been in our fridge for awhile.  While I probably could have whipped up a homemade version of this blend, I get antsy when there isn’t regular condiment turnover, and I’m sure I bought this at Grocery Outlet some time back because it was on crazy-super-sale, so I went for it.  This added some liquid to the skillet as well, which sped along the cooking process by adding the element of steam.  I ground up some peanuts (yes!  I have  nut grinder!  It’s one of my favorite appliances, probably because I love cooking Asian food and about 60% of my meals involve chopped peanuts), and added them to the pan, causing them to get nice and toasty and also caramelize in the sauce.

I almost always have a batch of cooked brown rice already on hand in the fridge, so we just nuked some of that, spooned Jesse’s hash over top, and ate the green beans on the side.

Bell Peppers Stuffed with Oyster Mushrooms, Sweet Potato, and Cheesy Red Rice

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Can I tell you how much I love the Portland Fruit Company?  Sooooo much.  It has become a permanent part of my Tuesday afternoons, swinging by after whatever other errands or appointments I’ve lined up on my “day off.”  It’s not even that it’s got sucha  gigantic selection, or that all the produce is super organic (but I think it’s mostly all local?), but they have just the right amount of everything, enough new stuff each week to give me a suggestive nod at a new dish, and are crazy, crazy cheap.  Like I walk away with a bag full of fruits and veggies that would cost me probably $28 at New Seasons, for only $16.93.  And there’s always something yummy near the register like fresh peaches or plums that I can grab one or two of, for the bike ride home, for like $0.38.

This week, I was wooed by the mushrooms.  I usually go for crimini, because they’re the cheapest, but this time I was like, you know, it’s the beginning of the month, I have a little wiggle room now that Jesse’s grocery budget is combined with mine, and seriously, the oysters are not that expensive.

So that’s how this meal started.  Wednesday night, I had the house to myself while Jesse went out on a bike ride with his friend.  It was also a chicken-roasting night, prepping some meat and stock to have on hand for the rest of the night, so I decided to whip up some stuffing for roasted peppers while that sat in the oven.

First: a few stalks of celery, some jalapeno, and half a yellow onion.

Then, I added in the cubed yam, and let that sautee and soften up, adding a bit of chicken stock when the pan got too dry, and added about half a pound of chopped oyster and shitake mushrooms.

Meanwhile, I had started 1 cup of red rice cooking, with just a bit of salt and nothing else.  Red rice takes a little longer than white rice — but not quite as long as brown rice — to cook, so it was done right as this skillet was done cooking.

In it goes…

And finally, some shredded cheddar cheese to get it all sticking together.  And tasting delicious.  I bought an amazing cheese grater from Ikea that lets you grate the cheese directly into a seal-able Tupperware, so I’ve started doing this to a 1-lb brick of Tillamook every few weeks and just keeping it in our cheese drawer.  This is genius.  Way to go, Ikea.

I had bought two beautiful orange bell peppers, just for this occasion.

These got stuffed, and placed directly into the roasting pan with my chicken for its last 20 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees.

Oh, and of course, there are TONS of leftovers of the stuffing, so I’ve been eating that for lunches this week with a few slices of the chicken breast and red cabbage slaw.  Also, I just have to say, I still have not gotten over the novelty of having a kitchen sink.  Guys, it is SO MUCH EASIER to clean up while you cook and always have an uncluttered, everything-in-its-place kitchen with sparkling countertops when you can do dishes as you go and wipe everything down with a sponge!!  Seriously, I hope this never gets old.

This Week’s (and last week’s) Groceries

Grocery Outlet 9/22

  • Spring mix: $4.99
  • Coffee beans: $6.49
  • Granola: $0.99
  • Cucumber: $0.79
  • Cherry tomatoes: $0.99

TOTAL: $14.25



Portland Fruit Company 10/2

  • Shitake mushrooms: $3.01
  • Cucumbers: $0.80
  • Kale: $1.29
  • Carrots: $1.11
  • Sweet onion: $0.61
  • Red onion: $0.47
  • Ginger: $0.28
  • Sweet potatoes: $0.68
  • Cantaloupe: $1.95
  • Celery: $0.99
  • Asian pear: $0.72
  • Bartlett pear: $0.23
  • Roma tomatoes: $0.83
  • Random produce (not specified on receipt): $3.96

TOTAL: $16.93



New Seasons 10/2

  • Sea salt: $2.34
  • Himalayan salt: $2.99
  • Dozen eggs: $2.99
  • Dave’s Killer Seed Bread: $4.99 — I think this is the first time I’ve bought a loaf of bread in 5 years!  I’ve been off the breadbaking wagon lately, but do crave some dank toast in the morning sometimes with a fried egg or some cottage cheese and roma tomatoes.  This loaf stays in the freezer for those occasions.
  • Cottage cheese: $4.49
  • Milk: $3.39
  • Whole roasting chicken: $10.71
  • Olives: $3.80

TOTAL: $35.28

REMAINING FOR THE MONTH: $247.79 — So far this seems like $300 a month for the two of us will be a piece of cake.  Granted, Jesse hasn’t been around as much for dinners this week and definitely doesn’t make all his breakfasts and lunches like I do, so we’ll see if his contributing an equal share is really realistic for the time being…


Sweet Potato Coconut Kale Soup

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It’s soup season, and not only that, but it’s my crazy-busy season, where one of the kindest things I can do for myself each Monday is to make a gargantuan pot of soup that I can ration out over the rest of the week for work lunches, accompanied by simple open-faced sandwiches on homemade bread.  

November and December for me isn’t even about not having time to cook; it’s about not having time at work to even think about what to eat for lunch.  The default plan of heating up a hearty soup is pretty much all I can handle once my work day starts, if I want any chance of eating before 3:30 p.m.

I had stumbled upon the idea for this soup during a rushed attempt at trying to catch up on my blog reading one night. Without even wanting to take the time to read the recipe, I literally just saw the title of this soup, thought hey, that sounds like a fantastic combination of flavors, and added it to my day-off to-do list for the next week.

It’s basic as far as soups go — no blending, no pureeing, not even really worrying about whether vegetables are getting overcooked and falling apart.  This soup is more bulk than broth, which is what I was going for since I wanted it to be filling even without any official protein to speak of, and although I’m generally not even a fan of sweet potatoes, they impart a really wonderful sweetness to this soup, without having to add any other herbs or spices — also fantastically simple.

It starts, as any good soup does, with a chopped yellow onion, sauteeing in olive oil.

After about 5 minutes, I added in three huge cloves of minced garlic, and a chopped jalapeno pepper (seeds removed).

I used two and a half large sweet potatoes for this soup, a little less than a pound and a half, chopped into one-inch cubes.  These got added next, and I filled the rest of the pot up with broth and water — a combination of my own homemade chicken stock, and my favorite commercial brand, Better Than Bullion.  

I brought this to a boil and the reduced the heat to medium, and left it to simmer while I went and did my dishes.  My plan for the rest of the night was to make some headway on a set of reversible crocheted coasters for an upcoming Christmas present, and after dinner I wanted nothing standing between me and a pair of pajamas, my cozy couch with the heat cranked, a crochet hook and six cones of soft bamboo yarn, and five episodes of Parks and Recreation.

Once the potatoes had softened (and sort of disintegrated, which I don’t mind in this soup), I added an entire bunch of green kale, chopped, and a can of coconut milk.

Overwhelming a pot with an unwieldy portion of greens and watching them lose their water and cook down is one of my favorite things to do, so I did not do this in manageable phases.

And it all worked out.


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Okay, admittedly, we’re not going to talk about what I actually ate tonight, but instead a meal I made the week before Thanksgiving.  (Is it weird that I feel guilty for letting these pictures sit on my camera for so long, like the food has spoiled or something?)
The reason I’m relying on a fallback meal is because this is THE WEEK, the one that rolls around every year, where I’m right smack in the middle of my two massive back-to-back holiday shows, and most of my evenings have been too crazy for cooking.  Too crazy for anything, actually.

So crazy in fact that I feel obligated to listen to podcasts like Radiolab and Democracy Now during my commute to and from work just to squeeze in any sort of education that I can during my aurally idle minutes, since reading has been out the window for at least the past month now.
But instead, all I want to listen to as I ride my bike home in the dark after work is Cloud Cult’s Mr. Tambourine Man on a straight loop.  I’m having an indulgently mopey night, and that’s been helping.  It feels like a bit of a cop out to spend the evening at home knitting and eating sea salt dark chocolate and catching up on my Netflix instead of going to this show that I was invited to.  I’ve been waffling about it all day, but it’s sort of a new thing I’m trying — an exercise in reminding myself that I’m not always mandated to choose the most emotionally trying from the given set of options.

So instead let’s talk about this silly meal I made a few days before Thanksgiving — silly because who buys turkey and sweet potatoes the week of Thanksgiving and uses them for something entirely non-Thanksgiving-esque?  (Especially when they’ve recently admitted to not liking sweet potatoes.)

But I had seen this beautiful green head of Napa cabbage, and was in need of a massive protein boost so it just kind of fell into place.  And the sweet potatoes…well, I had seen this picture the day before while searching for my own Thanksgiving recipe, and couldn’t get it out of my head.

This is one of those wonderful ten-minute meals that makes your muscles feel reenergized after a bike ride home, leaves you with leftovers for lunch the next day, and makes the kitchen smell amazing.  

I started by sauteeing half a yellow onion and some garlic in a thin coat of olive oil, with some salt and freshly ground cumin.  To this I added one of my favorite go-to seasonings:

I usually just buy half a pound of ground, free-range turkey, which I added at this point along with a bit of a chopped-up jalapeno.

Stirring this until the turkey browned, I chopped up half of the cabbage and tossed it into the pan.  The key to cooking cruciferous veggies such as this is to keep an eye on the color.  Just like broccoli or kale, the cabbage will turn bright green when it’s perfectly done, like a little green light indicating its done before it descends back into a sludgy green and gets over-wilted.

I drizzled some soy sauce over the top to give it a final kick of flavor and steam, and finished it all off with a some fresh chopped cilantro.

The sweet potatoes were sliced into quarter-inch thick wedges, and tossed with canola oil (this gives them a browner, crunchier bake than olive oil), and a whole bunch of spices: ground coriander and fennel, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes.  I lined a cookie sheet with foil and baked them at 425 for 40 minutes, turning them halfway through.

And garnished the plate with a perfectly crunchy Fuji apple.  I am a food separatist, but I do rotate bites, and to me the texture trinity of mushy, chewy, and crunchy is perfection.


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I got to spend my Thanksgiving with a whole host of wonderful, food-loving people…21, to be exact.  When I asked the host what I could bring, she said the only thing they were lacking was a sweet potato dish.
although really…I think we would have been just fine.

Now, sweet potatoes have always been sort of a thorn in my side.  I really hate to admit that there are vegetables I don’t like, and it wasn’t until just recently that I realized I’m actually even allowed to make that claim, as a quarter-hippie, locavore-whole-foodie.  But let’s say that if hypothetically there were vegetables that I’d pick last for kickball, sweet potatoes would be on that list.  But you know, I’m always up for a challenge.

So I knew I wouldn’t be doing the old traditional sweet potato mash with marshmallows on top, and that it would have to be something a little off-the-wall and creative to satisfy both me and Thanksgiving tradition.  Enter my current favorite food blog.
Yes, I think a swiss chard sweet potato gratin is exactly what we need to salvage this assignment.
This dish required quite a few different stages, which seemed totally fine for the day I had set out for myself: a 100% no-work morning (for the first time since, I believe, New Year’s Day), a homemade latte, some back episodes of CraftyPod and This American Life coming through my kitchen speakers, and every pot and pan clean and at my disposal.
Can you believe nature made this color up?!
First, to prep the chard, I de-stemmed and chopped big rough leaves from the three massive bunches I purchased the other day — some rainbow, some regular.

The stems got sauteed with a lot of butter, onion, and fresh grated nutmeg.  I’m not a huge fan of the stems actually, so I sauteed the leaves separately; that way I could dole out the stems conservatively as I assembled the layers later on.

Next came the cream sauce.  I love putting tons of garlic in my cream sauces, so I started with something that looked like this.
Then I continued with my normal cheese sauce recipe (minus the cheese), added more nutmeg, and set that aside while I assembled the gratin.

The casserole begins with a layer of sweet potato discs (see!  You wouldn’t even know there were sweet potatoes in here if it weren’t for this sneaky step), and then continues with repetitions of salt, pepper, chard, cream sauce, gruyere cheese, and more sweet potatoes, until everything is all used up.  Oh, but always finishing with a nice thick layer of sauce and a sprinkling of cheese, of course.  

I baked it at 400 degrees for an hour, with no covering, so that any additional moisture from the greens and sauce would evaporate.  Really, anything coming out of the oven after that long with browned cheese on top can’t help but look tantalizing.

Oh!  And I also made some cranberry sauce, too.

Fill a pot with water and boil these local little taut-skinned berries down with a handful of frozen strawberries and a few peeled satsumas…
And a glug or two of brown sugar cinnamon syrup (I use Torani, usually for my coffee, but it often comes in handy for cooking, too!  I will be totally honest here and admit that I purchase these wholesale from Cash & Carry).